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Camille Roberts overcomes injury, returns to court for Pirates
As a high school freshman playing on the varsity Turlock High team, Camille Roberts already had a commitment and drive to excel on the court. - photo by Journal file photo

The 2011-12 women’s basketball season was supposed to be a great opportunity for Camille Roberts. The recently graduated Turlock Bulldog had made her way onto Modesto Junior College’s starting roster, fulfilling a dream 14 years in the making, and was averaging 11 points a game as a freshman as she worked to draw the attention of four year universities.

The Pirates were 10-4 and Roberts was on the brink of a breakout season but on Jan. 10, 2012, everything changed. On that day, as she prepared to face San Joaquin Delta, Roberts tore her right ACL during warm-ups.

Her freshman year had ended before it really began.

“It was kind of a freak accident. I was jumping, and the way I landed, my knee popped out,” Roberts explained. “It was excruciating pain, that’s the only way I can describe it. I just remember falling down and I couldn’t even walk on it.”

“But the most painful part was it happening in the beginning of the season,” she added.

Without Roberts, the Pirates lost 10 of their final 13 games and finished 5th in the Big 8 conference.

Though she was down, the former Bulldog was in no way out. After a romantic Valentine ’s Day on the surgery table, Roberts underwent seven months of rehab and was back on the court for practice by October. In addition to the physical aspect of her injury, Roberts had to also overcome the mental toll that accompanied the pain.

“It was a really hard situation with my knee because I never had an injury that was that bad,” Roberts said. “I had a lot of former players who suffered from that injury tell me about how going back into the game, you’re constantly thinking about how you don’t want to hurt it again.”

Despite the cautious concern, Roberts' resolve to return to the court with her teammates was unwavering. With the support from the players and coaching staff Roberts returned for the beginning of this season, ready to make her sophomore year count.

“He has supported me through everything that’s happened to me, especially with my knee,” Roberts said of head coach Mike Girardi. “And my teammates have always been there for me. They’re constantly asking how my knee is doing and making sure I’m fine. We’re like a family on the court which is really nice; we’re always there for each other.”

As if her comeback wasn’t sweet enough, Roberts got the opportunity to finally play, and beat, Delta—a game that fate denied her a year ago. It was MJC’s first victory over the Mustangs in nearly 16 years.

“It was one of the highlights of the pre-season because there was so much hype about us playing Delta,” Roberts said. “Us being able to beat them has totally boosted our mentality and made us stronger as a team.”

Playing on a knee she estimates is 90 percent, Roberts has begun to divert her focus away from her injury and comeback and towards her team and its overall season goals. While she still has individual work to do to strengthen her leg, she seems much more interested in the work her and her fellow Pirates need to put in to make the 2012-13 season a success.

“Considering the team we have this year and all the talent we have, I think we can go far,” Roberts said. “It would be great for us to win league. I know we can do it, we just need to put our minds to it.”

If MJC can contend for a league title it would be a win-win situation for Roberts. Not only will she earn the satisfaction of a team accomplishment, but she will have shown prospective schools that she is capable of both overcoming adversity and being productive on the court.

“I have a lot to do this year because I have one year to show everybody what I got, so I’m going to be playing hard,” Roberts said. “I love it; it’s so much fun being back on the court again.”

MJC is currently sitting at 11-3 and Roberts is again averaging 11 points a game. Her next appearance on the court will be against American River on Jan. 8.